I dragged my feet as I walked into the UMSL Millennium Student Center, grumbling about not wanting to attend the Pierre Laclede Honors College Freshmen Development Reception.
I think back to this moment, my frustration with attending another required event and feeling the weight of not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, and laugh. There are pivotal decisions we make where the effects form waves whose ripples are felt even years later. Choosing to go to that reception was one of those decisions.
During the Freshmen Development Reception, in April 2017, I met Ala Al-Lozi and Tamas Javor, who were proudly promoting the first Ameren Accelerator. From the five minute conversation, my interest was sparked, setting off a whirlwind of experiences, connections, and opportunities.
I submitted an application and was invited for what I still describe as the most unique interview I have experienced: A four minute pitch of myself. I was accepted as an accelerator intern and following another pitch of myself to leaders of the first cohort of startup companies, was paired with Rebate Bus. Rebate Bus is a rebate focused start-up aiming to simplify the rebate process. During the twelve week accelerator, I watched Rebate Bus thrive and my own skills grow. I primarily focused on overhauling the redesign of the Rebate Bus website, championing both content creation and visual design. Following the accelerator, I continued working with Rebate Bus part-time where I worked on both marketing and development. Rebate Bus allowed me to explore my many interests, and CEO Joe Pater was quick to provide encouragement, mentorship and development opportunities.
As I expressed interest in even more opportunities, Joe encouraged me to seek out roles at Ameren. I heeded his advice, and within two months, accepted an offer with Ameren in Digital Strategy and Transformation. In my current role, I support the development of and implementation of technology strategy. I also assist with communications and plan large scale co-worker events. I love my role and the opportunities for growth I have received here, but most importantly, I am inspired by the people. The willingness and excitement Ameren co-workers, of all levels, have towards mentoring early career individuals, is unparalleled. On two occasions, I have mentioned my interest in areas of Ameren, and within a week each I had personal meetings with directors to talk about the technology they are implementing and my own passions. I said that I would love to talk to Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Information Officer, Bhavani Amirthalingam, about my experience and excitement about Ameren, and within a week was able to have over an hour to talk. Just last week I almost quite literally bumped into President and CEO, Warner Baxter. I mentioned my experience during the Ameren Accelerator, and Rebate Bus, and somehow the next day I had a one on one meeting scheduled on his packed calendar to discuss my involvement and experiences. There is something different about Ameren, where all levels of leadership sincerely care and want to hear about your experiences. I am passionate about my role and am excited to come to work each day. I hope to continue my career at Ameren following my graduation in December.
In addition to my role at Ameren, I have co-founded a construction robotics company, Singular Construction Automation, which recently placed in the Entrepreneur Quest Student Accelerator. Our company is focused on producing remote controlled asphalt and concrete cleaners, moving towards sealers, painters, and autonomous equipment. During the accelerator, we were challenged to rapidly develop our company. In the beginning, it was merely an idea. Now, our company has business plans, initial designs, an established office a T-REX, acceptance into IT Entrepreneur Network, and funding from the accelerator. We have also received strong mentorship from professor Chris Miller and our mentor Robert Gaskill-Clemons. I am thankful for the vast opportunities we have received from the University of Missouri system, especially UMSL, and I am excited to continue developing our company!
As I look back at myself before the Freshmen Development Reception, where I was first introduced to UMSL Accelerate, still grasping for career direction, I can’t help but feel gratitude for the assistance I have received from UMSL Accelerate in directing me down this path. I have gained vast career opportunities, connected with many, genuine individuals of all career levels, and gained many development opportunities as I transition from college student to young professional.
Thank you to my mentors, particularly Robert Gaskill-Clemons and Sierra Beery, who challenge and encourage me. Once again, thank you to the University of Missouri System and UMSL Accelerate, for providing me with so many opportunities.
My advice to students – take the bigger challenge and when you want something, whether it be an answer to your question or a personal meeting with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, ask. The worst they can say is no.
Senior, University of Missouri – St. Louis